Grace: the Gift of God

31.3 Creation

by Hubert F. Sturges,, October 2009

Why Did God Give Men and Angels Free Will?

Why did God create living beings at all? Weren’t there enough in the starry heavens to satisfy His taste for beauty and order? Why not create human beings with an "instinct" to obey and to do what is right?

First, God is love. Love cannot exist in a vacuum, there must be an object for love. This love was returned by all the creatures that He made – but in most it was an instinctive love, and lacked creativity. Then He made Angels and Men. With free choice their love and praise became a willing choice. Being in the image of God, they had creativity, and their love and praise constantly took new directions. Heaven and earth became interesting places to be!

Did God limit His sovereignty in giving free will? Yes! I believe He did. Did He weaken his position and authority? No! He did not. By His willing choice to give free will to men and angels He could only expand His sovereignty and strengthen His position. Sinless beings naturally were devoted to God, and used all their creativity to bring honor and glory to His name!

The government of God was thus based on His love, and on the freedom to choose and the creativity He gave to men and to angels. To truly give free will, there had to be the possibility that men and angels might choose wrongly. God accepted this possibility, and in His foreknowledge knew it would happen. Yet He still gave free will to His creatures.

This aspect of Creation was so important that God would not step outside of His plan even to deal summarily with evil when it arose. He would permit evil to be fully developed so that men and angels, even evil men and evil angels, would eventually confess the love, mercy, and justice of God (Philippians 2:10,11). (This did not change the fact that evil men and evil angels had chosen death in rebelling against God.) Because of His patience, the government of God will be firmly established for eternity.

In the Image of God

Comment: This rather extensive quotation is included as it offers fresh thoughts on what it means to be in the image of God. Please read with understanding, and look up all words that are not clear to you. ~HFS

What does it mean to be created in the image of God? It means that humans were given capabilities like God, but never equal to Him. This included personality, self-transcendence, intelligence, morality, gregariousness and creativity.

   "Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.’
   "So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him, male and female he created them" (Genesis 1:26-27).

We are personal because God is personal. That is, we know ourselves to be (we are self-conscious) and we make decisions uncoerced (we possess self-determination). We are capable of acting on our own. We do not merely react to our environment but can act according to our own character, our own nature.

No two people are alike, we say. And this is not just because no two people have shared exactly the same heredity and environment but because each of us possesses a unique character out of which we think, desire, weigh consequences, refuse to weigh consequences, indulge, refuse to indulge – in short, choose to act.

In this each person reflects (as an image) the transcendence of God over his universe. God is totally unconstrained by His environment. God is limited (we might say) only by His character. God, being good, cannot lie, be deceived, act with evil intent and so forth. But nothing external to God can possibly constrain Him. If He chooses to restore a broken universe, it is because He "wants" to, because, for example, He loves it and wants the best for it. But He is free to do as He wills, and His will is in control of His character (Who He Is).

So we participate in part in a transcendence over our environment. Except at the very extremities of existence – in sickness or physical deprivation (utter starvation, imprisonment, for example) – a person, having free will, is not forced to any necessary reaction.

Step on my toe. Must I curse? I may. Must I forgive you? I may. Must I yell? I may. Must I smile? I may. What I do will reflect my character, but it is "I" who will act and not just react like a bell ringing when a button is pushed.

In short, people have personality and are capable of transcending the cosmos in which they are placed, in the sense that they can know something of that cosmos and can act significantly to change the course of both human and cosmic events. This is another way of saying that the cosmic system God made is open to reordering by human beings.
          Sire, James W.: The Universe Next Door. IVP Academic, Downers. 2004, p. 31,32.

Why did not God Deal with Sin when it First Arose?

It is easy for us to imagine that God, being all powerful, did not have the power to deal with sin immediately when it first arose. And not only is it easy to imagine, we have the examples of the Flood, the Tower of Babel, and Sodom and Gomorrah as to how it could be done. Why did He not exercise His power and stop sin immediately?

The previous section gives us a hint. The government of God is based on law, certainly, but it also operates on the basis if love, persuasion, and freedom to choose. God desires a creation that serves Him willingly out of heart felt love.

It is Satan’s charge that God is capricious, arbitrary, and selfish. To deal with sin and sinners as some have suggested would serve only to lend support to these charges. Men and Angels would then serve God out of fear. But choosing to let Satan develop his plans and demonstrate his methods would present to the universe a clear choice as to the love and harmony in the plan of God. Love, persuasion, and freedom would be seen as far superior and conducive to a happy life. Satan, in carrying his plans to the point of attempting to murder the Son of God clearly revealed the result of a rule of force and greed. It eliminated any remaining trace of sympathy he might have had with the angels in heaven.

When Christ came to earth He lived a sinless life as a man depending on the Father. He gave of Himself as a sacrifice on Calvary, showing the depths of self-sacrificing love (John 3:16; 10:17-18). In the New Earth, when we learn more and more of what that means, our love and praise to Him will know no bounds. While we will still have the power of choice, knowing what our salvation cost will be a barrier against sin that we will never cross.

Was There a Law Before Sinai?

Is the ten commandment law just for the Jews?

Mankind was created in the image of God and naturally looked to God for an example of how to live. Was there a "law?" Of course! The universe of God is governed by physical laws that must be obeyed. As soon as God created the second angel, there had to be a moral law to govern their interactions. Even sinless beings needed the moral law to show them how to live in love and harmony.

Adam and Eve were given dominion over the earthly creation, commanded to multiply and replenish the earth, and were told what to eat. They did not focus on a moral law, but it would never even occur to them to have any other Gods, to kill, to steal or to break any of the other commands.

After the fall of man, a Redeemer was first promised to save mankind from sin. In the "enmity between thee and the woman" (Genesis 3:15) given by God after the fall of man are the seeds of the ten commandments. Adam and Eve would not be helpless in rebellion. They were given a conscience and a desire to do right, to obey God; though now subject to temptation.

In Noah’s day, 1500 years after Creation, the "wickedness of man was great" and "every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually." Wickedness and evil are known only because of the law of God "for by the law is the knowledge of sin" (Romans 3:20) (3).

Later, when Abraham was chosen for the Everlasting Covenant, it was because he kept the law of God.

   "For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the LORD, to do justice and judgment; that the LORD may bring upon Abraham that which he hath spoken of him" (Genesis 18:19).
Why was so little said about the law until Sinai? In the Patriarchal age people lived long, memories were strong, and information was passed on by word of mouth. What we read in Genesis are just glimpses of the law of God. This oral tradition was picked up by Moses as he wrote the book of Genesis. Of all the myths and legends present during that time, how could Moses know which stories were true. Second Peter 1:19-21 tells us that "holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost."

In Genesis we learn the basis for worshiping God as our Creator, the origin of sin and the promise of a Redeemer to come, but not all the details.

The written law was added, or appended because of transgressions. The people had been in Egypt for 215 years. They had been exposed to paganism, immorality, and bondage. In that setting they became insensitive to sin. Only by having God’s moral law brought into sharp objective focus could the Israelites be made conscious that they were sinners, and thus needed salvation.

   "Wherefore then serveth the law? It was added because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator" (Galatians 3:19).